Ghosts Don’t Answer the Phone by T.J. Peters

This inadvertent find, a unit of forgotten digital storage, carries a morbid curiosity that’s almost too hard to pass away. Grandparents are meant for dying, of course, but are they meant for dialing, as well?

The contact reads “G&G P”, the surname abbreviated without punctuation. There is no call log, no photograph, no evidence that the number has ever been used, only carried over from one phone, one memory card to the next. I believe I’ve replaced my cell four times since my final call to my grandfather, the former of the duo to go. They break too easily.

Ten years ago:

I shout into the receiver. A chronic windstorm of What-was-thats? swirl in his ears. Hers too, but it’s exacerbated by the volume of the television—loud for his sake, a marital sacrifice. Grandma wants to know when my father and I will come visit next, as if I’d be the one making travel arrangements for her baby boy. Mom is not mentioned. She doesn’t make the trip to Arizona anymore on account of the fact that she will have another one of her ill-timed clothing shows, code for, “Your mother does not treat me well, dear husband, so I intend to never see her again”. Dad agreed to this arrangement years ago. I ask Grandpa if he’s been watching Steve Nash play basketball for Phoenix Suns, to which he lies, replying Oh yeah, yeah. There’s no way of telling if he even heard the question, or if they’re listening, or why we’re even doing this. And that’s about it.

And now again:

I call. It rings, then an answer—surely a stranger to whom the number has been reassigned—of “Hell-”, cut short by me hanging up. Moments later, the stranger dials back and the contact “G&G P” appears on my phone. I do not answer. Not because I’m emotionally paralyzed by the ghostly sight of “G&G P” on an incoming call, but rather because if somehow it was them and I did answer, they wouldn’t be able to hear me anyway.

T.J. Peters is a humorist and filmmaker dwelling atop a mount in Los Angeles, CA. To alleviate the mind-numbing rigmarole of the big picture show, t.j. writes short prose and poetry, often relying on irony and paradoxes to examine things large and small in scale. In addition, t.j. considers himself an amateur falconer, though there is no evidence to support this claim. His work can be found in The Blackstone Review, Westwind, UCLA’s Journal of the Arts, The Higgs Weldon, and No Extra Words. Currently, t.j. is shopping a chapbook of poetry with Chicago-based author Mark Magoon.